MECAS(08)05 - Sugarcane Smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa: Status, Challenges and Strategies for Development

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The sugar industries of Sub-Saharan Africa differ considerably in scale and also in terms of the number of smallholders involved in sugar cane production and smallholder outgrower scheme design and modalities.

The objective of this paper is to identify and investigate these factors which often contribute to low productivity by smallholder cane growers and can even threaten financial viability for some. These factors typically include: a lack of capital or credit to purchase inputs; low and declining productivity of cropland; lack of management capacity and regulatory systems; lack of farmer capacity – technical/business/civic understanding; high costs of inputs and transportation; and inadequate irrigation infrastructure. Where schemes are proving successful, drivers and factors supporting success are highlighted. A further objective of the paper is to identify and review announced industry and government initiatives to support smallholder grower development. Several strategies for overcoming observed problems and constraints including a “business linkages approach”, block farming, improved cane varieties and strengthening of grower associations are discussed. A key conclusion of the paper is that the core of the issue for optimal smallholder performance and development would appear to be a strong milling performance plus a supportive small grower infrastructure.

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